- August 15: James Powers, president of the University of Alabama
- August 17: John Altman, attorney and politician
- December 3: Frank Lathrop, lumber dealer
- Mel Drennen, businessman and mayor of Birmingham
In 1851, Northwestern University was founded. The Great Flood of 1851 hit the Midwest. The yacht America won the first America's Cup race. The New York Times was founded. The Reuters news service was founded. Ariel and Umbriel, moons of Uranus, were discovered by William Lassell. Herman Melville's novel, Moby-Dick, was published. Western Union was founded. Louis Napoleon, president of France, dissolved the French National Assembly and declared a new constitution to extend his term. The largest fire in the Library of Congress' history destroyed 35,000 books.
Notable births in 1851 statesman Léon Bourgeois, archaeologist Arthur Evans, gunfighter Doc Holliday, librarian Melvil Dewey, and businessman Asa Griggs Candler. Notable deaths included naturalist John James Audubon, author Mary Shelley, mathematician Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi, nutritionist Sylvester Graham, writer James Fenimore Cooper, and artist J. M. W. Turner.
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